SALT LAKE CITY — After her debut series, "Divergent," sold millions of copies and was turned into multiple major motion pictures, Veronica Roth admits that her newer series "Carve the Mark" was a bit of a disappointment.
"I'm always afraid of letting people down," she said, "so I was always comparing (the two series), like, 'Oh, no, it's not quite as widespread as my first series.'"
But there were benefits to having a more "normal" book release, as Roth called it.
"I was able to talk to readers more and have a little bit more of an intimate and calmer experience with them, which was really lovely," she said. "It's one of my favorite parts of the job."
While 2011's "Divergent" was part of the young adult dystopian fiction craze that hit publishing about 10 or 12 years ago and reached a wide range of people, "Carve the Mark" and its sequel "The Fates Divide" (HarperCollins, 480 pages, ages 14 and up) attracted existing fantasy and sci-fi readers, Roth said.
But this time Roth also was more experienced as she planned and wrote the "Carve the Mark" series.
"'Divergent' was a little bit of learning as you go," she said. "So, with 'Carve the Mark' I had a plan from the beginning. I knew a little more about detailed world-building and the kind of questions you ask yourself when you're making a new world. I just felt more sure of myself."
The "Carve the Mark" series falls closer to the space fantasy/sci-fi worlds than dystopian. Although the main characters Cyra and Akos live in the same world — there are nine worlds in this series — they come from opposing families, but must cross paths thanks to the fates given to them at birth. Akos' fate is he will die in the service of Cyra's family, who are sworn enemies of Akos' people.
Cyra, who's lived her life with what her world calls a currentgift that brings her nonstop pain that she can also spread to others, has come to recognize the evil in her own family. In "The Fates Divide," she works with Akos to overthrow her father from his tyrannical reign as king. But an unexpected twist will show what fate has planned for the unlikely pair all along.
When Roth turned in "The Fates Divide" to her editor, for the first time her editor didn't have any major changes to make.
"That was really gratifying," Roth said. "That's never happened to me before and it probably won't happen again either. … With 'The Fates Divide,' I just had a really clear image of what the story was. I think it's just happenstance, really. Every book is different."
Roth's biggest challenge in creating the "Carve the Mark" duology was the world building, she said.
"It's such a big universe with all these planets and different cultures and languages," she said. "So, keeping track of them and making sure they're distinct from each other — it was a big undertaking."
What kept her going was the romance between Cyra and Akos.
"I'm a bit of a romantic," she said. "I like that they formed a friendship and it was a little unconventional. … That was like the little carrot that lured me through scenes I wasn't as excited about."
Roth also pulled from some of her personal experience while writing Cyra's character. Roth suffers from her own chronic pain and worried a lot that readers would struggle with a character who constantly suffered.
"Then I realized I was saying to myself that existing in my own body is tiresome for other people to read about," she said. "So writing (Cyra) was a really great self-acceptance exercise for me."
As she concluded the series with "The Fates Divide," Roth noticed many of her fans were worried she'd end it on the same tragic note that she did "Divergent."
"Mostly, the reactions I've gotten are relief that it has a happier ending," she said. "I think I sort of traumatized a few people."
But, she said, she appreciates even angry responses from her readers because it means people have an emotional connection to her work.
"I think I have an interesting relationship with 'Divergent' readers specifically because they're really mad at me but they loved the books," Roth said. "So we have this, 'I hate you; write more books,' kind of relationship, which I have come to really cherish."
Next up, Roth has a collection of short stories coming out Oct. 1, titled "The End and Other Beginnings." It includes some tales from the "Carve the Mark" universe, along with a "mixed bag of light sci-fi" stories, she said. Then, next year she has something a little different coming down the pipeline — an adult contemporary sci-fi/fantasy called "The Chosen One," which Roth admitted to feeling a little nervous about.
For now, Roth will be meeting up with her old friend and Utah resident Ally Condie for her tour stop in Orem. The two young adult authors met while both their debut novels were riding the dystopian high, and Roth calls Condie "one of the nicest people in books." Also, Roth's sister attended Utah State University, so she's familiar with and happy to return to the Beehive State.
"I'm really happy to be doing an event with (Condie)," she said. "We're going to have a good time."
If you go …
What: Veronica Roth book signing
When: Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m.
Where: Barnes & Noble, 330 E. 1300 South, Orem